Lati Bai is on her 7th pregnancy and will this time give her baby to her youngest daughter, Sneha. Lati Bai's oldest daughter, Mamta, should by rights, be the receiver of this baby, but she is soon to be married and according to Lati Bai: "her mind should be on other things." Mumta is 20-years-old and a constant reminder to her father what a failure he is. Lati Bai had her first daughter at the tender age of 15 and has become accustomed to her body, how it works, and how long it will take to birth each baby. Mamta is more excited about her upcoming wedding but helps her mother don her oldest sari, the one she can cut into rags: "...for the forty-day bleeds".
The majority of women in the village hire the expensive midwife, Kamla, but not Lati Bai for she has birthed all of her babies on her own and this one will be no different! Clutching her roll of brown paper Lati Bai heads to her mustard field to her lucky patch of ground and prays to "Devi", the goddess of her clan to give her a boy. This patch of ground is where she found her beautiful golden bangle bracelet. Ahh, she feels it now, the warmth of the baby's liquid running down her thighs and knows it won't be long now. Birthing pain after birthing pain, Lati Bai finally feels the baby's head. She pulls gently and out pops a beautiful, black-haired baby girl! She takes out her husband's hunting knife and cuts the cord.
Lati Bai can see her city from the distance, the City of Gopalpur, India and thinks about the swirling winds churling up around her and how each family must re-build or re-patch their homes each time a storm blows their way. The villagers pack dung and reeds together to patch holes and cracks. The most permanent material they have is wood but they save that for the ploughs.
Lati Bai has been walking for a long time now, the shame of birthing a female has propelled her in the wrong direction. She realizes a severe storm is coming and must get home before it starts. She turns, lowers her head, faces into the wind and begins to plod toward Gopalpur. She reaches home but does not see her family: her father, her husband and 4 children. She lifts the flap and enters, disappointed to find her daughters are not at home. Her husband, Seeta Ram, is demanding dinner and she busines herself making daal and chapattis. He does not acknowledge Lati Bai's pain or the baby, so she only says: "Shanti, let's call her Shanti!" Now Seeta Ram is unhappy: "Not another girl", he says. Lati Bai responds: "We must accept what God gave us."
Mamta is the eldest of the 7 children born into a low-caste family and is female which is a disgrace in and of itself. Shunned and unloved by her father she is hoping her upcoming marriage will bring positive change into her life. Her mother, Lati Bai, has always loved her and says the best day of her married life was when she became pregnant with Mamta. Lati Bai tells Mamta that the first few months of married life are the best and to enjoy them. She told her to lay a good foundation with her husband and for her children, to work hard, even harder than she does at home. But the birthmark that dangles above Mamta's eyebrow, like a sign of: "disapproval from God", lends to her feelings of inadequacy. Lati Bai assures her that in another six days she will be married and that won't matter anymore. But in her father's eyes, Mamta has no right to exist at all, but deep down she hopes the day she is married will be the one and only time her father will be proud of her.
Once married, Mamta starts her new life as a wife with hope, but that hope is soon ripped away from her as she is forced to leave her village and the terrible nightmare of her arranged marriage. In her new city Mamta struggles to find a state of acceptance and to make peace with her past, but will this come with further hardship?
May 12, 2011